Constantina. It had been 7 years since I had visited my Christian family in Peru, 37 years since I arrived there with Glenn and 7 children in 1963. (Our 8th child, Stephen, was born in Lima.) I can hardly believe it, but in looking over the notes of my trip, I discovered that in 30 days, although I had stayed in only four hotels and four homes, I had visited in 26 different homes–2 in Arequipa, 4 in Cuzco, and 20 in Lima. I was invited for one or more meals in 20 of those homes. I visited in 5 different congregations as well as participating in a seminar with leaders from several cities. I taught 10 ladies’ class sessions. Of the persons I visited, 7 had lived in our home for extended lengths of time in the 60’s or the 80’s.
Because Lima finally has telephones and an adequate telephone directory I was able to locate friends I had not seen for at least 20 years. Some impressions: In spite of the deplorable political-economic conditions in the country, most of my friends have improved their living situation. Most own their home, though it may be only partially finished and be located in a crowded area of the city. Their children are polite and they respect their parents. Some are already university graduates. Although I heard a figure of 56% unemployment, the family working together has found some way to survive. Few people under the age of 30 are able to find jobs so they live with their parents and continue studying while looking for work.
One rewarding visit was with Constantina, the helper who lived with us the first four years we were in Peru. She was the first person who knocked on my door after I put up the “Necesito Muchacha”sign two days after we arrived. Last night I looked up some of my first letters from Peru and found these excerpts: “Constantina is going to be especially helpful in the cooking department, because she has been cooking for Peruvians, and knows how to use what is available here. Tonight I was at a loss, and she came through with fried sweet potatoes, fried bananas and eggs, and I sliced the tomatoes.” “Today we had to go to the center of the city to have the girls’ (4 oldest) school uniforms fitted. We left Julie (5) and Becky (3) home with Constantina and took John because I want to wait to leave him until he becomes a little better acquainted. We left at 9:30 and I hoped to be back at 12:30, but everything always takes longer than expected, so we didn’t get back until two. I was relieved to find that Julie and Becky were happy and had had their lunch. Imagine them spending almost 5 hours with a girl who speaks no English. But they like her, and kindness needs no language.”
While we were in the United States on furlough in 1968, Constantina became a single mother.She did a good job raising her son, whom she named Steven after our Stephen. He has graduated from a university and has a “Casa de Cambio” which is a money-changing office. Recently he bought his mother a two-bedroom apartment. Most of his life they had lived in one room on the third floor, with a very unhappy relationship with the landlady.Consta took a day off work to invite me to her second floor apartment for lunch. Her apartment is quite a bit larger than the Brinleys’ apartment in Moscow. The living room is roomy and light, with a wall of windows toward the street. It has parquet floors but no furniture except for a TV, a small table, and 2 chairs. It was fun to be with her there and after lunch I took a nap on her bed, and she on Steven’s. She is 58 years old.
Julie and her family arrived for their Peru visit two days before I left, so I arranged for her to spend several hours with Constantina, and some of their conversation was videoed. We hope it came out well. She told why she chose each nickname for each of the Kramar kids, and also shared her impressions of our family when we opened the door when she answered our “help wanted” sign.She said a barefoot man came to the door, and then a barefoot woman, and then they were surrounded by a bunch of barefoot little children…she thought we must be hillbillies, I guess, but she decided to try us out anyway. (Were we really all walking around the house barefoot? Well, we had just come from southern California. Maybe that explains it.)